How long-term benzodiazepine use leads to cognitive impairments

Nature Neuroscience (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41593-022-01013-9 “width =” 800 “height =” 530 “/>

Figure 1: Diazepam alters dendritic spine density and dynamics in vivo. Credit: Nature of Neuroscience (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41593-022-01013-9

Benzodiazepines are effective and are widely used in medications to treat states of anxiety and insomnia. While short-term treatment is considered safe, taking them for long periods of time can lead to physical dependence and, especially in the elderly condition, lead to depression. The mechanisms by which benzodiazepines cause these changes in the past are not known. Researchers led by Jochen Herms and Mario Dorostkar from the Center for Neuropathology and Prion of the LMU and the German Institute of Neurodegenerative Medicine (DZNE) have now been able to demonstrate in animal models that functional equipment causes joint loss in the brain. .

It plays an important role in the brain’s immune system known as microglia. Benzodiazepines bind to specific proteins, protein translocator (TSPO), on the surface of microglia cells. This binding activates microglia, which then degrade and regenerate synapses – that is, connections between nerve cells. Experiments by scientists have shown that the loss of synapse in rats that receive regular doses of benzodiazepine diazepam for several weeks leads to miscarriage.

“Microglia are known to play an important role in eliminating both synapses during brain development and pregnancy neurodegenerative diseases, ”Said Dr. Yuan Shi and Mochen Cui, co-authors of the study. But to our surprise, such well-researched drugs as benzodiazepines are having an effect on this process. ” When diazepam treatment was discontinued, the effect continued for some time. , but in the end it became reversible.

In the opinion of the researchers, the study may have an impact on the management of sleep disorders and anxiety in people at risk of developing dementia. “There are no known drugs bound fellowship TSPO should be preferred where possible, ”the authors said.

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Learn more:
Yuan Shi et al, Long-acting diazepam inhibits microglial cell proliferation and impairs cognitive function through 18 kDa mitochondrial protein (TSPO), Nature of Neuroscience (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41593-022-01013-9

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